the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229


Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India



Unemployment and Mahatma Gandhi 



You should also search out the workers from other parts of the country who live as strangers to you and who have hitherto not attended these meetings, and see that they attend them. In these days, when you are facing a temptation, all manner of thoughts will occur to you. It is a miserable thing for a working man to be without a job. The meetings will keep up the patience of all workers who feel so. For those who know their strength, there can be no enforced unemployment. In reality the worker can be so independent that, if he realizes his true worth, he will never worry about losing a job. The wealth of a rich person may disappear or be stolen or be lost in a moment by mismanagement. Thanks to miscalculation, a rich man may have to face bankruptcy. But a worker’s capital is inexhaustible, incapable of being stolen, and bound to pay him a generous dividend all the time. His hands and feet, the energy which enables him to work, constitute this inexhaustible capital of his and the wages constitute his dividends. The worker who invests more of his energy in work can easily earn more interest. An idle worker will certainly starve. Such a one may have reason for despair. The industrious has no reason to worry even for a moment. 1 The only way for removing unemployment among the middle classes is to teach them vocations which will require them to use their hands and feet. 2 

The fact that we have more cattle than we can support is a matter for urgent treatment. I have already suggested the taking over of the question by cow-protection societies. It is their legitimate function. The question of uneconomic holdings requires revision of the family system. The question of wanton destruction of manure requires a true agricultural education and that of unemployment for half the year for millions of men and women can only be solved by the spinning wheel. It is clear that to the fight with the Government we must add a scientific study and handling of the problems discussed by Mr. Sam Higginbottom. 3 The most remarkable part in the statement is that relating to six months’ unemployment. It is an echo of the other parts of the country. Many people work on their miserably small holdings for six months, and for six months they labour in factories far away from their homes. A studious reader will notice that this unemployment naturally occupies the first place in the tale of woes. It is also mainly the cause of the other troubles mentioned. If they had steady work in their own homes for the whole of the year, they would not be obliged to run to the money-lender. If they had anything to lie by, they would not be obliged to sell their jute at rates dictated to them. Six months’ industrial employment must revolutionize their lives. 4

Why should not the maintenance of dependents of those who are in prison or deported and alleviation of unemployment of Congressmen who are starving by reason of their non-co-operation be one of the objects, if not the object?” The same question has come before me during my stay in Bengal in a variety of ways. In my opinion, it is not possible to raise the fund suggested from all over India and from all parties for such a purpose. So far as the maintenance of the dependents of political prisoners and detenus is concerned, it is a matter that requires most delicate handling and must be left to each province to settle in the manner that may be considered most suitable in that province. I cannot reconcile myself to a permanent fund for that object. My own practical experience in South Africa, and to a limited extent here, has shown me that very often undeserving people get relief and the deserving are left out. A permanent fund for distant contingencies of this nature offers temptation to those who do not mind living on charity. In order to obviate chances of dishonest practices, I had to establish a settlement in South Africa where all those who needed and deserved relief could be accommodated, fed, and looked after.

At a single stroke it was possible by this arrangement to save thousands of rupees, to provide for every honest case of distress, to do absolute justice to everyone, to put people in distress in ideal surroundings, to find useful employment for them and to provide education for the children of such families. I suggested a similar course in Chittagong after the great strike in 1921. There is danger of charity being misplaced unless drastic measures as I have suggested be adopted to deal with cases of political imprisonment or detention. The real fight, if it is to come at all on a large scale, is still to come. We shall have to pay a price adequate to the freedom we want and, unless we think out and devise some plan of meeting such contingencies in a reasonable manner, in the struggle for freedom, it is possible for us to be starved into an ignominious surrender. Apart, therefore, from the question of Memorial and on the merits of the case, I am against any permanent fund for the relief of what may be called political distress. The question of the Congress unemployed is more urgent and of a permanent character. Although we have resolutions on the subject, hitherto we have been unable to establish an All-India Congress Service or even a Provincial Congress Service, not for want of will but for want of ability. Personally, I have endeavoured to tackle it more than once, but I own I have been baffled. It has not been possible to fix a maximum to be paid nor has it been possible to devise grades of service.

Wherever, therefore, it has been sought to establish a system, it has been found necessary to leave well alone and try every case on its merits. It is perhaps not possible as yet to establish a regular service, but I have no doubt that the scale and the system is gradually growing. There are two branches of constructive activity which absorb the largest number of Congress workers, khaddar and, to a lesser extent, education. But here again every province will have to be responsible for its own scheme and as it too depends, as a rule, upon local contributions, it is a fairly sound proposition that that Service only deserves to live which obtains local support, because the test of appreciation of service is the support given by those who are served. The very existence of the Congress depends upon the fact that it supplies a local want. It is not like a Government super-imposed and, therefore, independent of the support of those whom it seeks to rule. Both the khaddar and the educational services presuppose continued activity and continued preparation. I have laid it down as a rule for my own guidance that, if neither of these activities has local support, it is due to want of tact or ability on the part of those who are engaged in the respective services. I do not know a single case of starvation of deserving men. I know cases of straitened circumstances of Congress workers eking out an honest but precarious life. But I fear that that will be progressively our lot, and, if in some cases, some of us have not yet reconciled ourselves to the simplicity and severity that have entered into the national life, and if some owing to a long course of habit are even constitutionally unfitted to adopt themselves to the severe simplicity which is expected of them, in any case I hope it is now clear why the All-India Deshbandhu Memorial may not take the form of giving relief to the distressed or finding employment for Congress workers. The present object of the Memorial is calculated indirectly to do both. 5 

The Hindu publishes a long report of what it calls “a grand charkha demonstration and spinning competition” held recently at Bangalore under the auspices of its Spinners’ Association. The chief event of this interesting and instructive function was the address delivered by the Chairman, Mr. Z. Mecci, the Director of Industries and Commerce, Mysore. Mr. Mecci gave an exhaustive, and, in my opinion, a convincing reply to the critics of the spinning-wheel. He insisted that the wheel was to be considered from the point of view ‘of poverty and unemployment’. 6 All-transcending and without form, God cannot be apprehended even through meditation. Meditating on the impersonal is hard for embodied beings so one should meditate on a manifestation of God in personal form. In this age and in this country, that form is Daridranarayana. The only way of meditating on Him is to serve the poor. There may be different ways of serving the poor, but in India the root cause of poverty is idleness and unemployment. In order that people may shake off their laziness, we should spin ourselves and persuade them also to spin and thereby provide them innocent employment. With every breath we take, we should utter this name, Daridranarayana, and should see him in our imagination pleased and smiling with satisfaction with every revolution of the spinning-wheel. 7

Mills can give employment only to a few lacs. Millions of people in partial unemployment must have an industry brought to them. The wheel is the only such industry. The question of cost cannot be allowed to affect an industry which is a vital need. Dear khaddar is therefore economically cheaper than cheap khaddar. It is possible to clothe India through khaddar in a year’s time. It is impossible to do so through mills. The latter cannot do it under 20 years at least. 8 Whereas it is necessary, at present, to concentrate our efforts on such centres, where, by reason of greater unemployment or special adaptability to the industry of hand-spinning and hand-weaving, there are greater facilities for the production of khadi, it is resolved that, in proposing schemes of work, provincial agents and secretaries should not undertake to open or maintain centres of production which can be run only at a loss. But where it is considered desirable in the interests of the movement that any centres should be run or maintained at a loss, it should be borne in mind that no more than 10% of the total capital invested for production in the province should be invested in such pioneer effort. 9

The next heading is labour and unemployment. I am inclined to think that this needs more diligent study than appears to have been given to it. It requires, in my opinion, considerable revision. I suggest that the charkha movement with all its implications provides the largest form of relief to the unemployment of millions. 10 You may, if you will, go on receiving that education, but do at least make a decent return for it. I know you have not taken to khadi, not because you are perverse, but because you lack the conviction that there is anything like the stupendous problem of poverty and unemployment, whose existence I have been declaring from the housetops. The King of Siam refused to believe Lord Curzon when he said to him that he was coming from a country where rivers were frozen for a part of the year. I assure you I am describing to you conditions I have seen with my own eyes when I say that 30 million people in our land have to go without a decent meal a day. 11 

About the unemployment, I don’t know what I can do from here beyond saying that you should send all the likely names to the Technical Department. Personally I think that every willing worker can be accommodated in the Khadi Service. But I cannot give that faith to all the co-workers. And for such practical work, therefore, it is best for the present to treat me as dead. If I come to life again and plunge into practical work, you will certainly come to me. But, for the present, you have to go to Mr. Banker. Frame a policy and then see whether many can be accommodated. Do not give up the hope or the work on behalf of the unemployed fit men because you can no longer rely upon me. 12 The first is a sustained argument put in a popular style and in a brief manner so as to enable the average busy reader to understand the economics of khadi. I must not attempt to resummarize the argument which is itself a summary of the case for the spinning wheel. But it may be stated that after examining all the arguments for and against, Rajendra Babu has shown that only the spinning -wheel can successfully displace foreign cloth, and only the spinning-wheel can give a supplementary occupation to the twenty-two crores and forty lakhs of agriculturists of India who without the wheel are living, and must continue to live, in a condition of semi-starvation because they are and must be in a condition of unemployment at least for 120 days in the year. 13

The cardinal facts to realize are that there is already terrible, forced unemployment among the toiling millions in that they have no work for at least four months in the year. Once that is realized, surely it follows that not a moment should be lost in bringing work to these millions so as to utilize their idle hours. The other fact to realize is that if the average income of the inhabitant of this land is seven pice per day, i.e., less than two English pennies per day, at the present rate of exchange, the average income of the toiling millions must ipso facto be much less. He who adds two pice per day to their income and that without any great capital outlay makes a princely addition to their income and in addition revives the dying hope within the breasts of these millions. The further merit of this programme is that it is now in operation without government aid. But it needs much greater encouragement and admits of infinite expansion. Pyarelal has shown elsewhere in this issue of Young India what America wrought through the wheel during those times of her Revolution. I invite the economists of India to study the movement on the spot. They have nearly two thousand villages to select from for their study and let them then condemn the movement if they can, or give it not a niggardly place that prudence or patronage can grudgingly afford but the central place it deserves. 14

The service rendered by indigenous mills compared to that rendered by khadi appears too insignificant to be of any account. They can never cope with the problem of the terrible unemployment of millions of men and women and even the few labourers for whom they can find employment get only 25% of the cost of textile manufacture whereas the labourers for khadi get 73% for work done in their own cottages and without the demoralizing atmosphere that surrounds factory labour. 15 U.P. is the home of so many big landlords and talukdars; at the same time there is poverty too. Possibly the poverty in U.P. is not worse than that in Utkal. Many areas have had famines for three years consecutively. The people have neither work nor money. They are starving. It can be true swaraj for them only when they have regular work and can keep the wolf from the door. If the young men of U.P. so wish, they can provide for the people both work and wages by going to the villages and popularizing the charkha. At the same time they can help boycott foreign cloth. I have mentioned the charkha by way of example only. What I want is that we should somehow destroy unemployment and hunger among millions of our brethren and merge ourselves completely in their service. So long as we think of them from a distance only and do not go to them, and until we try to remove their trebles after understanding them, one must know that we shall have done little for them. Under these conditions swaraj will remain a mere dream. 16

And the pity of it all is that Joseph does not suggest an alternative. Not even if every educated Indian was dressed in khaki and knew how to shoot straight, would the problem of the growing poverty and the forced partial unemployment of millions of the peasantry be solved without a special programme devised for the purpose. For better or worse khadi is that programme till a better is evolved. 17 I may draw a distinction for the sake of avoiding inconvenience between in the collection of salt spontaneously in these days of unemployment. Trying manufactured and crude salt, and adopt the easier method of manufacturing salt. But that does not alter the legal position in the slightest degree. When therefore the time comes, civil resisters will have an ample opportunity of their ability to conduct their campaign regarding the tax in a most effective manner. The illegality is in a Government that steals the people’s salt and makes them pay heavily for the stolen article. The people, when they become conscious of their power, will have every right to take possession of what belongs to them. 18

That both are vitally necessary for the nation, nobody will dispute. Drink and drugs sap the moral well-being of those who are given to the habit. Foreign cloth undermines the economic foundations of the nation and throws millions out of employment. The distress in each case is felt in the home and therefore by the women. Only those women who have drunkards as their husbands know what havoc the drink devil works in homes that once were orderly and peace-giving. Millions of women in our hamlets know what unemployment means. Today the Charkha Sangh covers over one hundred thousand women against less than 10,000 men So much about some of the visible sources of revenue. The invisible sources are equally tainted if not much more so. The unconscionable forced inflation of the rupee has by a stroke of the pen drained India of millions. The favoured treatment of British cloth in a variety of unseen ways drains India of sixty crores of rupees annually, leaving behind partial unemployment of the starving millions. 19 A living wage for industrial workers, limited hours of labour, healthy conditions of work, protection against the economic consequences of old age, sickness and unemployment. 20

Behind the crazy demand of Sjt. Gajadhar Shau there was a substratum of truth. Unemployment there undoubtedly was and still is in Karachi as elsewhere, as throughout the 7, 00,000 villages of India. No society can long endure that harbors or creates an army of unemployed. There is something wrong in such society. There must therefore be some occupation always available for those who will work. The Karachi scheme asked for employment through the charkha. Unfortunately the author knew no more perhaps about the charkha than the name. But I do believe that in its extensive meaning so as to include all the cotton processes from picking to weaving and washing, coloring and tailoring, it does provide permanent and unlimited occupation for the city-dwellers as well as the villagers. This does not exclude other occupations. But this one thing may be adopted anywhere and everywhere. 21 The remedy for unemployment in England is not thoughtless generosity of India but a complete realization by England of the awfulness of exploitation of people, violently brought under subjection by her, and consequent radical changes in her conception of the standard of life and a return to simplicity. Has generosity, in respect of a man more fortunate than himself, any meaning for the man who is living in a state of chronic starvation?  As is your wont you are distressed over what your eyes see and ears hear. This time it is the terrible unemployment in Lancashire and what you see and hear acts as an effective barrier against perceiving the truth. I have seen from extensive experience the truth of a legal maxim which says: “Hard cases make bad law.” Many legal maxims are also sound moral maxims as this one is. I can say with perfect detachment although I am immersed in the Indian turmoil that the way you suggest is not the way to help Lancashire. If it was wrong any time for Lancashire to impose its cloth upon India by hook or by crook it is wrong also today and more so because India has become conscious of the wrong. 22

Unemployment in any country is always bad, and it would be a matter of the greatest joy to me if I could, in any shape or form, contribute towards relieving that unemployment. But I am powerless to do anything without the active co-operation of Lancashire and of Englishmen in other parts of Great Britain. 23 The poverty I have seen distresses me, and it distresses me further to know that in this unemployment I have a kind of a share. That distress is relieved, however, by the knowledge that my part was wholly unintended; that it was as a result of the steps I took, and had to take, as part of my duty towards the largest army of unemployed to be found in the world, namely, the starving millions of India, compared with whose poverty and pauperism the poverty of Lancashire dwindles into insignificance. 24 I am pained at the unemployment here. But here is no starvation or semi-starvation. In India we have both. If you went to the villages of India, you would find utter despair in the eyes of the villagers; you would find half-starved skeletons, living corpses. If India could revive them by putting life and food into them in the shape of work India would help the world. Today India is a curse. There is a party in my country which would sooner see an end to the lives of these half-starved millions in order that the rest may live. I thought of a humane method and that was to give them work with which they were familiar, which they could do in their cottages, which required no great investment in implements and of which the product could be easily sold. This is a task which is worthy of the attention even of Lancashire. 25

I feel that I have learned something of the distress in Lancashire, and my heart has gone out to the suffering operatives. I saw Mr. Davies’s mill and the whole shed in which the looms are lying idle. I have explained to him my personal position and that of the Congress. I have shown to him the limited extent to which help from India is possible in the event of a permanent settlement coming through. But I am also oppressed with the fact that unemployment is so widespread that the help that can possibly come from India will affect but a small class. 26 Look, again, at another advantage, that this system affords. You can multiply it to any extent. But concentration of production ad infinitum can only lead to unemployment. You may say that workers thrown out of work by the introduction of improved machinery will find occupation in other jobs. But in an organized country where there are only fixed and limited avenues of employment, where the worker has become highly skilled in the use of one particular kind of machinery, you know from your own experience that this is hardly possible. Are there not over three million unemployed in England today? A question was put to me only the other day: "What are we doing today with these three million unemployed?" They cannot shift from factory to field in a day. It is a tremendous problem. 27

So long as India is held by the bayonet, the British ministers will continue to cast their hungry eyes on the famishing masses of India and forging fresh means of draining the last ounce of silver and gold from India not necessarily by a malicious design, but forced by the necessity of the case, for when there is unemployment and want stalking the land and there is a chance of relief from some direction, no matter whether it is by exploiting another country, you cannot expect the statesmen to weigh everything in golden scales, and model their conduct on a strictly ethical code. It will drive them to desperate measures like manipulating India’s currency. That may for a time put off the agony, but the ultimate doom cannot long be delayed. 28 With reference to European proletariat, the relations between employers and employed were fairly happy. But I said that the remedy did not come through giving battle to capitalists but in giving battle to themselves. They would then become their own employers. They look to capital to find their labour. If the capitalists gave them all the capital, they would not be happy and they could not make use of it even for one full year. I said to them, therefore, “revive your cottage industry”. It is being adopted in Wales. Brave, Stalwart minds and majority of them unemployed and unemployment will increase as oil wells increase. Not one of them should be living upon doles. 29 

At present, therefore, we shall have to import them from outside. Nor do we have the capital required to meet the needs of a population of 30 crores. Hence, even if it is possible to be self-sufficient through industries run on steam power, etc., it would take a long time. Moreover, if this source of tremendous energy is employed on a large scale in the country, it would lead to a great increase in the present unemployment. It is said that in America every man gets the work of 36 slaves with the help of gigantic machines. This means that with the help of these machines each person does the work of 36 persons. If we estimate that the population of India will be 37 crores when it reaches such a stage, it would mean that 36 crores of them would remain unemployed. In other words, to enable one crore of people in this country to be as rich as Americans, 36 crores would have to commit suicide, or else a Chenghiz Khan or a Ravana should wipe out 36 crores and distribute the country among the remaining one crore. The per capita distribution of land in this country is two or three bighas only. This land is certainly not enough for one’s maintenance. Everyone, therefore, must have some other occupation at home. This is naturally the spinning-wheel. We require very little capital to make it universal. Other requirements would be available in every village. All that is necessary is a change of attitude among the people. They must shake off their lethargy. The solution of the economic problem of Harijans also lies in this. If the machine age comes into vogue, all the Harijans would be included among those 36 crores. 30

That the village industries in Germany are being revived at the point of the sword is not relevant here. What is relevant is that a country, which has shown the highest technical skill and is amongst the most advanced in the matter of industrialization, is trying to go back to village industries for solving the problem of her terrible unemployment. 31 Unemployment and idleness of millions must lead to bloody strife. Khadi is the only alternative to this and not the so-called socialism, which presupposes industrialism. The socialism that India can assimilate is the socialism of the spinning-wheel. Let the village worker; therefore, make the wheel the central point of his activities. 32 

Yes, of truth and non-violence. When as a nation we adopt the spinning-wheel, we not only solve the question of unemployment but we declare that we have no intention of exploiting any nation, and we also end the exploitation of the poor by the rich. It is a spiritual force which in the initial stages works slowly, but as soon as it gets started, it begins working in geometrical progression, i.e., when it gets into the life of the people. When I say I want independence for the millions, I mean to say not only that the millions may have something to eat and to cover themselves with, but that they will be free from the exploitation of people here and outside. We can never industrialize India, unless, of course, we reduce our population from 350 million to 35 million or hit upon markets wider than our own and dependent on us. It is time we realized that, where there is unlimited human power, complicated machinery on a large scale has no place. An Indian economist told me once that every American had 36 slaves, for; the machine did the work of 36 slaves. Well, Americans may need that, but not we. We cannot industrialize ourselves, unless we make up our minds to enslave humanity.  Then, we have to fight untouchability. Untouchability of a kind is everywhere. A coal porter coming from a coal-mine would not stretch out his hand to shake yours. He would say he would wash himself clean first.

But the moment a man has rendered himself clean, he should cease to be untouchable. Here however we have regarded a part of one population as perpetually untouchable. We are trying to abolish that untouchability. Added to their untouchability is unemployment, which they share in common with a vast number of others. You, too, have got the unemployment problem, but it is of your own creation. Our unemployment is not entirely of our creation, but, however it came about, I am sure that, if my method was universalized in India, we should not only find work for those that exist but for those to come. That is, we should easily be able to tackle our population problem. The problem is to double the penny a day which is the average income of a poor Indian. If we can achieve that, it would be quite enough at least till we find a better method. The spinning-wheel, by utilizing the idle hours of the nation, produces additional wealth; it does not, it was never meant to, displace existing employment. Give me a thing which would increase the daily income of the millions of our impoverished people more than the spinning wheel, and I should gladly give up the spinning-wheel. 33

During my Harijan tour this year, a large number of people used to come to me to narrate their tales of woe. Never before had I travelled as I did during this tour. And, in Utkal, I had an extraordinary experience since I was touring on foot. There is no limit to the state of unemployment in our seven lac villages. The people subsist on agriculture. And millions of people suffer losses in agriculture. And what can we say about the present state? Today the farmers do not produce enough even for the seeds. You can hardly find such poverty anywhere else. That is also one of the reasons why people disposed of gold worth lacs of rupees. This has of course its political reason. But the helplessness of the people was also one reason. The spinning-wheel has emerged to meet this unemployment. Apart from India there is perhaps no other country where people depend so completely on agriculture. Madhusudan Das had said that village people must be provided with some additional occupation. He had gone to Germany and learnt leather work. I have always remembered his one remark that those who always work with oxen must have bovine intelligence. Our farmers lost their work and became dull-minded. 

A friend left a socialist paper with me. It contains a nice article. It says that the people of India are being reduced to subhuman state. Ten years ago there were many industries, but now they have become dependent solely on agriculture, and this has led to increase in unemployment. The only point I learnt from it was regarding the remedy for this unemployment. When I thought about it the concept of swadeshi emerged in its precise form. We are able to provide work to 2, 20,000 women spinners through khadi alone. We have given them three crores in ten years. There are 1,100 men from the middle class who supervise this work and earn their bread. This amount has been distributed through them. This work is being carried on in five to six thousand villages. The capital involved is not more than 20 lacs. But this is not enough to solve completely India’s problem of unemployment. Let me cite the instance of carpenters. Our carpenters were good craftsmen at one time. Today they have lost the skill. Today the village carpenters cannot make even a spinning-wheel. Take Bihar for instance. There sand has piled up in the fields and tilling has become impossible. Instead of giving free food to the starving people there, it was decided to provide them with spinning wheels but from where to find the spinning-wheels? The local carpenters could hardly make them. 34 

Truly, necessity is the mother of invention. Why should not we be able to accomplish in our war against enforced idleness and unemployment what had become possible in the time of the Great War? Instances such as .Shri J. K. Mehta has given can be endlessly multiplied. The whole face of the great continent of Europe was changed during those days of mutual slaughter, and men and women, boys and girls had to work with their hands, in order that they might be able to keep body and soul together. 35 It would spell their unemployment and their ruin. We have to employ all these crores of human machines that are idle, we have to make them intelligent machines, and unless cities decide to depend for the necessaries of life and for most of their other needs on the villages, this can never happen. We are guilty of a grievous wrong against the villagers, and the only way in which we can expiate it is by encouraging them to revive their lost industries and arts by assuring them of a ready market. There is no one more patient and forbearing than God, but there comes a limit even to His patience and forbearance. If we neglect our duty to our villagers, we shall be courting our own ruin. This duty is no onerous one. It is incredibly simple.

We have to be rural-minded and think of our necessities and the necessities of our household in the terms of rural-mindedness. The task does not involve much expenditure either. Volunteers are needed to go to the nearest villages to assure them that all that they produce would find a ready market in the towns and cities. This is a task which can be undertaken by men and women of all castes and creeds, of all parties and all faiths. It is in consonance with the true economics of our country. I have no time to expatiate on this, but I would ask you to read what is written in the columns of Harijan, English and Hindi, from week to week. 36 People say village uplift in India is impossible, but foreign lands like America give an example to the contrary. When there were no machines in India, a single work was done by a hundred hands and all of them remained employed, but today growth of machinery has left 98 people out of 100 unemployed. Look at America, where sweeping engines are lying useless on roads. In the Western world unemployment means not getting even salt and rice. 37

If the canker is eating into the vitals of the simple village folk of Gujarat, it is invading titled men, barristers, doctors, merchants and even teachers who are expected to guard national morals. Even the police are said not to be free from the vice. Women, children of tender age and blind beggars are not free from the vice. Some newspapers thrive on advertising the evil. It goes on unchecked in spite of the effort of some reformers. May not growing poverty and consequent unemployment be the cause of the evil? I do not think so. No doubt unemployment favours the spread. But the causes are much deeper. The very fact that the vice has affected all classes must make us cautious and lead us to make deeper investigations into the causes. 38 In the third case also the same principle applies as in the first two. The thing to remember is that the Association will be responsible for the payment of the minimum subsistence wage where it is itself concerned. If its policy becomes popular and therefore general, no doubt it will be difficult if not impossible for anyone to get things done for fewer wage. And the co-operation between A. I. S. A. and A. I. V. I. A. may become so powerful that wages in every other department will at once be levelled up to their standard. The success of the effort will depend upon the hearty response from the buying public. If they will realize that they may no longer exploit the poor villagers on whom depends their existence, the problem of unemployment and semi-starvation will be automatically solved. 39

Let us now see how India came to be utterly impoverished. History tells us that the East India Company ruined the cotton manufacture and by all kinds of means made her dependent upon upon Lancashire for her cloth, the next great necessity of man. It is still the largest item of import. It thus created a huge army of partially unemployed men and women counted in millions and gave them no other employment in return. With the destruction of hand-ginning, carding, spinning and weaving to a certain extent, perished the other industries of India’s villages. Continuous unemployment has induced in the people a kind of laziness which is most depressing. Thus whilst the alien rule is undoubtedly responsible for the growing pauperism of the people, we are more responsible for it. If the middle-class people, who betrayed their trust and bartered away the economic independence of India for a mess of pottage, would now realize their error and take the message of the wheel to the villagers and induce them to shed their laziness and work at the wheel, we can ameliorate the condition of the people to a great extent. It would be a terrible thing if laziness replaces industry and despair triumphs over hope. 40 

And there is no reason why his wife should not add to the family income by utilizing her spare hours. Similarly if the children are at all able to do any work, they too should be in spanned for productive work. The utterly false idea that intelligence can be developed only through book-reading should give place to the truth that the quickest development of the mind can be achieved by artisan’s work being learnt in a scientific manner. True development of the mind commences immediately the apprentice is taught at every step why a particular manipulation of the hand or a tool is required. The problem of the unemployment of students can be solved without difficulty if they will rank themselves among the common labourers. 41 Moreover it would never do for a working man during strike or unemployment to rest idly at home. There is nothing more injurious to his morale and self-respect than enforced idleness. The working class will never feel secure or develop a sense of self-assurance and strength unless its members are armed with an unfailing subsidiary means of subsistence to serve as a second string to their bow in a crisis. 42

An organized and systematic effort is now being made by the Labour Union in that direction. Mill-hands are being taught to select occupations which they can practise in their leisure hours at home and which would give them substantial relief in times of unemployment. These are ginning, cleaning, carding and spinning of cotton, weaving, tailoring, soap and paper making, type-setting, etc. 43 Whilst on this question, I would like to answer an argument advanced in one of the newspaper cuttings which good friends send me that Shri C. Rajagopalachari in his zeal for this reform has brushed aside the question of the unemployment of the tappers who will be thrown out of work. I do not know what he has in mind for them. Shri Gajanan, who is becoming an expert in making palm gur, tells me that in the Southern Presidency there are tappers engaged in the nefarious trade. He further suggests that the tapping need not stop at all. Only what they will tap under the prohibition regime will be sweet toddy which will be converted into gur instead of fiery liquid. Indeed I learn that in Andhradesh the tappers do not sell the palm juice they extract, but they convert it into gur which they sell to the arrack manufacturers who make arrack out of this gur. In such cases nothing needs be done except for the State to take over this gur at a reasonable agreed price. From what I know of the tappers, they are not likely to lose anything by the impending prohibition, and the poor will get a rich but cheap food in the shape of good pure gur instead of a liquid which harms both body and soul. 44

It is my firm conviction that the vast amount of the so-called education in arts, given in our colleges, is sheer waste and has resulted in unemployment among the educated classes. What is more, it has destroyed the health, both mental and physical, of the boys and girls who have the misfortune to go through the grind in our colleges. 45 It is the only real insurance against famine and unemployment. Even if India were to be industrialized overnight, much of the unemployment would remain. In this country the problem is to find work for a whole nation which has one-fourth of her time without occupation. If pestilence, poverty and blood-shed are to be avoided, there is no remedy but khadi and other village industries. Those who believe in this mission of khadi and who believe also in a living wage being paid to the spinners will not grudge the increase that has to be made in the price of khadi. They may rely upon the Association moving with the utmost caution. The past two years’ experience warrants the hope that the public welcome the increase in the wages that the spinners are receiving. 46 

And the charkha is a means par excellence for effecting this mobilization of our labour resources. It is a natural symbol of non-violence too, which is the soul of all voluntary life-giving corporate activity. The popularization of the charkha thus has a definite place in any scheme of municipal work, whether it relates to the liquidation of rural unemployment and the consequent penury and appalling conditions of existence under which vast sections of our rural population live, or whether it refers to the amelioration of slum life that is the shame of our big cities. 47 If the tappers took to tapping the juice for gur-making, there was no question of their unemployment. In Bengal tons of gur was prepared from nira and in South India arrack was prepared from gur made out of fresh juice. 48 We have now to prove our loyalty by our concrete action. The General of a violent army insists on certain qualifications to be satisfied by his soldiers. May not I, the General of our nonviolent army, insist on my soldiers being true to their creed? I suggest to you that, if you will all be true to the creed, there will be no surplus khadi in the khadi shops, there will be no unemployment and there will be no mill-cloth, foreign or indigenous. You do not want me to say anything more, do you? 49 

If they render implicit obedience to the General, they should believe with him that khadi will bring swaraj. Mere mechanical action will not bring the result by which I will have to judge their obedience khadi bhandars to be emptied and unemployment to be liquidated. That cannot happen without the belief in the charkha. If there is no such belief, I will not call it real obedience. But I will not blame them; I will blame myself if I do not carry conviction to them. The fault will lie entirely with my defective ahimsa. As I have often said if there is one true satyagrahi it would be enough. I am trying to be that true satyagrahi. Not one of his thoughts would be in vain. I know that many of my thoughts do not go in vain, but I also know that what I have thought and said about khadi has not gone home. I know the cause. I am full of himsa. Though I can suppress my anger, the fact remains tha

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Ahimsa. 5 Replies

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Started by Arthur Bogomil Burton in Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave Nov 25, 2010.

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